The Romantic Manifesto - Chapter 4: Art and Cognition - Music

Submitted by wngreen on Tue, 2006-08-08 23:31

I am hijacking the discussion for no other reason then I couldn't wait anymore to start on this chapter. What is Art? "Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value judgments." Art's purpose, says Rand, is to concretize "man's fundamental view of himself and of existence."

After defining art in broad terms she then turns to the task of classifying the major branches of art. Literature, Painting, Sculpture, Architecture and Music are all closely tied to man’s cognitive faculty. Singled out are: Music, for its ability to deal directly with sense-of-life emotions; and Architecture, for its uniquely utilitarian purpose.

I would like to focus on Music (my understanding of the other Arts is too immature to comment on the discussion) and leave it to the better qualified to comment on the other sections. While the other arts focus on abstractions of perceptual awareness (ie. visual conceptualization for Painting), music is much different. “The fundamental difference between music and other arts lies in the fact that music is experienced as if it reversed man’s normal psycho-epistemological process.” Instead of focusing on a concretized concept, a listener to Music searches his subconscious for an ‘emotional concept’ to fit the emotional state induced by the music. The process of emotional abstraction is precisely what forms one’s sense of life and this is what Music touches so deeply.

People generally agree on the feelings invoked by Music but differ in their appraisal of the feelings the Music invokes and depends on their sense-of-life. An interesting thought during the discussion of Music and other cultures was that “the experience of certain sense-of-life emotions precludes the experience of certain others”.

Unanswered is the question why Music is able to cause us to experience emotions. Music theory combined with cognitive science is where the answer may someday come from, but Music theory is mired in subjectivity and until the discovery of a conceptual vocabulary, “no objectively valid criterion of esthetic judgment is possible in the field of music.” We know that the periodic nature, the mathematical nature, of music is what differentiates it from noise (however this seems to contradict Linz’s dislike for Bach).

Rand’s hypothesis on the nature of man’s response to music is that Music generally conveys a concretization that is primarily epistemological, while the other forms generally bring metaphysics into focus. Since our brains are a tool of integration, modern music with its rejection of musicality for monotony and noise represent a paralyzing force mirroring the paralyzing philosophy that makes it possible.


Geo's picture


I just got the new Joshua

Marnee's picture

I just got the new Joshua Bell recording, Voice of the Violin, and I was struck by his liner notes comments. I was reminded of this discussion so I thought I'd pass it along.

"I will forever be inspired by singers, and working with the lovely Ann Netrebko in Strauss' "Morgen!" was a privilege and a fitting way to close this album. In the end, playing these peices compelled me to think like a singer -- to breathe with the musical line, to articulate each note as surely as I would utter the syllable attached it, and finally, with the help of my 1713 Stradavarius violin, to discover the very human-like voice of the violin."

-- No royalites on this one, Ross *wink*

Music of course has the quality of voice, of speaking. I have always thoght the violin to be the closest to voice and I think this might be why violin peices are so most popular, even the most favored. When at the symphony I cant help but imagine that all of the intruments are having a conversation. I think this is a hint to the cognitive part of music. That's all I can say for now.


Peter Cresswell's picture

"...ever identify a melody by tapping the rhythm alone?"

You mean, apart from 'Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits'? Smiling

Cheers, Peter Cresswell

**Setting Brushfires In People's Minds**


**Integrating Architecture With Your Site**

It's rare

Landon Erp's picture

Since I was in high school pep band one of our most heavily used songs was "Louie Louie"... I can spot the "da da dun da dun dun dun dun da da dun" anywhere, and when I was working in a warehouse the forklift drivers had to use the horn every time they hit a corner to warn walkers...

One time I remember hearing in the monotone horn "ba ba ba, ba ba ba, ba bun ba badun" and immediately identified it as jingle belle, it can be done but it takes a heavy amount of epistemological closure to do so.


Inking is sexy.

Cheer for Marnee

JoeM's picture

I think Marnee is pretty thick-skinned, but I don't think we (?) were hitting HER as much as the theory. But kudos to her for bringin it up! And while I don't think it's complete, I do think it's a major element, which is why I made for-and-against arguments to see where it may play its role. I think Peikoff's explanation is a strong one, and that the somatic effect of rhtyhm is on the sensastional? level, which provides the MOTION, and that the artistic level comes in on the conceptual level, which provides the EMOTION.

As for Varese...well, I like Copeland. Smiling

Food for thought re rhtyhm in melody: ever identify a melody by tapping the rhythm alone?

Fascinatin' Rhythm

Craig Ceely's picture

Marnee Dearman has taken a few hits for suggesting that rhythm affects us emotionally, perhaps more so than other artistic elements do. I agree with her.

I'm no esthetician, nor an expert on the visual arts, but the late Kimon Nicolaides of the Art Students' League of New York used the term "gesture drawing," and referred to "thrust," "action," and "motion." Sounds an awful lot like rhythm to me.

In poetry we refer to meter. Rhyme is not essential to poetry, but rhythm is: Shakespeare wrote sonnets, yes, with regular rhyme schemes; but most of the language in his plays is blank verse: that is, unrhymed iambic pentameter. Milton wrote a few sonnets, too, so he knew how to employ rhyme when he so desired; but Paradise Lost is blank verse.

Even in fiction and in dramatic literature, we refer to pace: probably impossible to quantify or measure, but it can be observed, described, and felt.

More important, though, is the application to music. Whatever else can be said of melody (and I don't really disagree -- much -- with what Peter Cresswell and Lindsay Perigo wrote), it must be said that melody itself is dependent on rhythm, while rhythm can be independent of melody. As soon as we speak of melody we are speaking of time, of the lengths of each note, each chord, each rest, with reference to the other notes, chords, and rests in the melody. If not, then we are not speaking of melody at all.

As an example: Edgar Varese, especially his percussion-only piece "Ionisation." Not easy to listen to (and it does not reward listening). A failed experiment, I would say: but, while the result isn't music, it does have musical elements. It is musical, it approaches music, but, as it has no melody, it ultimately cannot be said to be music. His "Octandre" and "Hyperprism" are tolerable, but his "Poeme electronique" is, again, not music. The musique concrete elements in "Ionisation" and in "Poeme electronique" also remove them from consideration as music.

(Note: I do not listen to any Varese for pleasure. Even one of his most purely melodic pieces, "Density 21.5" (written for solo flute), annoys my dogs. Annoys me, too.)

Aaron Copland, in his What to Listen for in Music, addressed this as follows:

"Most historians agree that if music started anywhere, it started with the beating of a rhythm. An unadulterated rhythm is so immediate and direct in its effect upon us that we instinctively feel its primal origins....Not only the testimony of music itself but the close relationship of certain patterns of work with rhythmic ones and the natural tie-up between bodily movement and basic rhythms are further proof, if proof were needed, that rhythm is the first of the musical elements." (emphasis miine)

I submit that this goes pretty far toward explaining why Lindsay gets so pissed off at the barbarians in his gym. Nor am I unsympathetic: it's the same reason I get so pissed at the savages who drive by my house with their "music" blasting out of their cars (and into my library, where I commune with Maria Callas, Beethoven, and others): there is so much that can be done with rhythm, it is so fundamentally important, that it is simply insulting to have shovels banging into heads referred to as "music." And it also goes to why, while I am agreeing with Peter Cresswell (that melody integrates all of the elements in music), I am also supporting Marnee's contention that it is rhythm which brings out our emotional responses. If there is no rhythm, there is no melody: nothing is integrated because there is nothing to integrate.

Peikoff on Emotions

JoeM's picture

Here's a passage from OPAR that may help shed some light on this whole motion/emotion/rhythm business:

From Chapter 5, "REASON":

Emotions as a Product of Ideas

"What is the connection between feeling and thinking?

"A feeling or emotion is a response to an object one perceives (or imagines), such as a man, an animal, an event. The object, by itself, however, has no power to invoke a feeling in the observer. It can do so only if he supplies two intellectual elements, which are necessary conditions of any emotion.

"First, the person must know in some terms what the object is. [For our sake, let us assume the melody, or the rhythm/flow in Marnee's post.] He must have some understanding or identification of it...Otherwise, to him, the object is nothing; it is a mere cognitive blank, to which no one can respond."

"Second, the person must evaluate the object. He must conclude that it is good or bad, desirable or too the mental content may take many forms...Otherwise, the object-even if he knows what it is-is an evaluative blank to him. Such an object cannot trigger an emotional response; being regarded neither as a positive nor a negative, it is a matter of indifference."

Rand says something similar regarding music in RM: "Music communicates emotions, which one grasps, but does not actually feel; what one feels is a suggestion, a kind of distant, disassociated, depersonalized emotion-until and unless it unites with one's own sense of life." So one can be "moved" physically by the rhythm, so to speak, we can identify it, maybe not emotionally, but physically: fast and slow, aggressive or quiet, etc. But our emotional response to those physical actions is another matter.

Peikoff addresses this aspect of emotions in OPAR, where he furthers the definition of emotions in relation to its etymological origin, and I believe this is the key to our discussion:

"Emotions are states of consciousness with bodily accompaniments and with spiritual-intellectual-causes. This last factor is the basis for distinguishing "emotion" from ""sensation." A sensation is an experience transmitted by purely physical means; it is indeendent of a person's ideas. Touch a man with a red-hot poker, and he unavoidably feels certain sensations-heat, pressure, pain-regardless of whether he is a save or a sophisticate, an Objectivist or a mystic. By contrast, love, desire, fear, anger, joy are not simply products of physical stimuli. They depend on the context of the mind." Peikoff goes on to provide more examples. But I think the point is clear, and the above explains the phenomena of "spontaneous toe-tapping" for one, and explains Linz's comments about jungle rhythms, and also puts Bridgman's comments in their proper context. The rhythm provides a somatic component, but it is not the cause of the emotional response per se.

Wagener? Nihilist!

Peter Cresswell's picture

Linz, you said: "[Bach] gave us great formalities from which the later Romantics could derive their "clever deviations" that took music to its most soaring heights ever, before Wagner started the descent into nihilism. That's a bit over-simplified, but it'll do for now."

Just a tad over-simplified, but correct apart from your temporal error in the third to last phrase. Wagner's music was the soaring heights: he showed how the deviations could give genuine and profound and soaring meaning; it was those who followed after him who abandoned both melody and meaning.

Peter Cresswell

* * * *

Visit Peter's Daily Blog, 'NOT PC.'
**Setting Brushfires In People's Minds**

**Integrating Architecture With Your Site**

rythm vs. beat

Chris Cathcart's picture

With a Beethoven symphony, you have notable rythmic periods, but without the need for an accentuated beat to literally tell you -- as if you wouldn't know otherwise -- where the periods begin/end. So much of the "beat" in pop/rock music seems to speak down to its listener. If you don't have a drum explicitly marking off the time signature for you, it's apparently assumed that you won't follow the rythm. That's really one of those grating "vulgarities" of so much pop/rock that I could do without. Sometimes it's not so bad, probably because in such instances the explicit beat-marking is overwhelmed by the actual musical value. Still (ugh!) listening to this Interpol CD, my attention is overwhelmingly focused right now on the highly-grating beat-marking, because it's not made up for by the rest, doesn't complement anything interesting, etc. All that I can notice assaulting my eardrums is the drumbeats. Seems to me that inferior and vulgar music/"music" relies so heavily on beat for its alleged appeal.

Now I've really gotta get that damn CD out of there.

"urban" and other "music"

Chris Cathcart's picture

"Urban" being a euphemism for Rap & Bullcrap (or if you will, R&B). I think that rap/hip-hop as the dominant voice of the "urban" community nowadays does speak some volumes about its intellectual, cultural and existential state. I'd have said that it represents a cry out for help, though it's more in the nature of defiant anti-society speil. The African-American community in the '60s had Motown as its most representative sound and produced some genuinely respectable works of music, particularly those of legends like Stevie Wonder. Since that time, you can tell, just by the progression of musical trends, that all hasn't been well. The youths are brought up now in the context of the sounds of hip-hop instead of . . . well, instead of music.

It may well prove interesting to see studies of what a society or culture's dominant musical trends say about the direction of that society or culture. It would prove interesting, for instance, to observe the reasons why "Western" music is looked down upon by authorities in various Middle Eastern countries, and what their own representative music says about them. It's also well-noted that classical music has been a big part of recent Japanese culture.

I've tried to get some grasp on what it is that extant fans of punk and heavy metal get out of that on a musical level. The phase of my life that I was into metal as well as rap coincided roughly with the ages 14-17. May have been a hormonal thing. I don't know if metal fans (apparently lots of males in their teens and twenties) listen to it so much for music enjoyment as for some other kind of emotional kick or high-energy rush. I have a friend of about the same age as me who is into some metal genre known as "black metal" and related genre offshoots like "viking metal," and he tells me straight out that he is into these kinds of metal because of a kind of dark outlook on life, and that viking or Scandanavian metal attracts his interest from some myth/folklore aspect. (Why the myth/folklore would have anything necessarily to do with metal, I don't know. Perhaps it's the fact that it's myth/folklore instantiated in this case in heavy metal, and that the myth/folklore aspect occurs in plenty other genres as well, just that he isn't into this genres.) Punk, I've hardly ever listened to at all; it seems to be up-front enough in wanting to repel me. (I've had a CD of "post-punk" group Interpol [Turn on the Bright Lights] on replay for the past few hours now. I'm really, really not getting whatever I'm supposed to be getting. I'm detected hardly a hint of complex melody or progression/development of theme.)

Back at 17, I bought and listened a lot to a CD by thrash metal group Pantera, Far Beyond Driven. (So happens that it was smack dab around this very time that I found Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal on the family bookshelf. Hell, it probably was what was playing in the CD player when I first leafed through the book, if it wasn't talk radio. Eye A couple weeks ago I went back and listened to it. What the hell was I thinking? Smiling It's the very same sound and I remembered it pretty well, but clearly it wasn't musical value per se that drove my interest, as there's remarkably little of it there.

I gather that if periodic vibration is part of Rand's definition of music, she wouldn't have regarded Ligeti's soundscapes like Atmospheres (used most famously in the Star Gate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey) as music, and -- rather correctly -- would have regarded it as symbolic of the state of modernist composition. Still, I find it interesting to listen to from time to time. Doesn't mean that I think that it qualifies as music, though it's deliberately structured in such a way that it's more interesting than random noises. But I'm perfectly willing to acknowledge that an object of my listening interest in this case is something other than music. And Ligeti did from time to time make some pretty nasty-sounding let's-call-it-noise -- e.g., vocal works like Adventures, the better parts of which are electronically covered/altered close to the end of that sequence in 2001, upon Bowman's entry into the "bedroom." The full, unaltered version included on the soundtrack has random shrieks that are ear-piercing at times.

Anyone here have any interest beyond a dry mathematical one in so-called minimalist composition? I just can't endure more than a few minutes of it without sheer boredom.

Okay, time to take that Interpol CD out of the player . . .

Giuseppe ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Phrasing is part of what makes this version, of course. One shouldn't be conscious of the rhythm in this song, even though there is one (of course). If you're aware of it, the singer's not doing his job. Is Lanza following the rhythm of the words, as opposed to the metronome? He's blending them both. He's very much "speaking" the words to us, as he always did, yet staying in time—which time he varies, though, not by changing the number of beats per bar but elongating some as dictated by the lyrics. (This was obviously premeditated, not spontaneous, otherwise he would have gotten out of synch with the orchestra, though his conductor for this, Callinicos, was also his piano accompanist & personal friend, & was good at anticipating him.) Note for instance how the thing slows at "And he'll forsake me never" then reverts to strict time for "He will not fail me as long as my faith is strong" then slows again for "Whatever road I may walk along..." effecting a magical transition back to the main melody.

Note that when he said "I sing each word as though it were my last on earth" he said "word," not "note"!

Lanza's not in a courtroom but on a theatre stage for his Nessun Dorma, rehearsing it with the orchestra in the movie. Domingo is in a live performance of Turandot, from which the aria comes, as per my article! (Wagnerian? Wash your mouth out! Smiling)

Lanza Tempo

JoeM's picture

Hmmm...phrasing seems to suggest what you're getting at better than "organic rhythm". It's Lanza's phrasing that makes his version?

Yeah, it does have a four-four tempo, it's just very deceptive, one, because their is no percussion to keep the time, and since you're following the vocal line, which is more prominent, it doesn't seem like it. You mention how others stay close to the metronome; to me, that's what I find interesting, that if it doesn't have that steady beat nowadays, many people don't know how to listen to it (and say it has no "rhythm"). The rhythm section is SO out in front...

Would you say that Lanza was following the rhythm of the words as opposed to the metronome? I've heard complaints about singing that complains the words lose too much because of vocal phrasings deviating from speech...

I have to confess that for the longest time, I couldn't understand music without a semblence of a beat. It took some getting used to. Still can't listen to opera, save the highlights. But I couldn't stand, on the opposite side, "dance" music that had nothing BUT strict thumping 4/4 beats. BORING! And it felt like a jackhammer! Change it up a bit! And I never understood how that was so great for dancing, when you see the latin dances with rhythms all over the place!

(And I watched the damn Neesun Dorma already! Just had nothing to offer! I get it, Domingo is nasally. Though at first I was distracted by the setting; why is Lanza in a courtroom and Domingo in some kind of Wagnerian setting?)

Jesus, Giuseppe! :-)

Lindsay Perigo's picture

You're asking me to solve the riddle of the universe here! Smiling

Quick thoughts:

Rhthym in music is *not* the "organic rhythm found in speech, water, movement, etc." I *am* talking about "patterns of accentuated beats" which can be found in the jungle (maybe without regular accentuation) but are incorporated into the sublimest compositions of Beethoven et al. The trick of genius is to depart from those patterns then return to them, rather like consonance-dissonance reverting to consonance. (My, how Sciabarrian this sounds! Smiling) One form of this is called rallentando. For instance, if you finally bring yourself to watch the Lanza Nessun Dorma I've been urging upon everyone here, you'll note how on a number of occasions Mario almost grinds to a halt, lingering on certain notes & phrases—then repairs to the original "metronome" tempo. (This, incidentally, is what he did *not* do in the second take, the one used in the movie.) Same thing, actually, with I'll Walk With God. It does have a strict tempo, a quick 4-4, and if you listen to anyone else singing it you'll be very conscious of it—they don't depart from the metronome. Part of the genius of Mario's performance is that he makes it sound as though there is no "strict tempo" but in fact it's there all the way through, underpinning his clever deviations. Chris, who probably doesn't know such terms, almost hit on this in his review of the Mario's performance in the archives. If you doubt me, conduct it! (The great way of unlocking many of music's great secrets.) In the same interview in which he talked about the "happy marriage" between melody & lyrics, Mario talked about imprinting your own personality on the performance without going outside the form to the point where you make a mockery of it.

Now, to answer someone's earlier question about Bach—Bach was a major figure in the application of mathematical relationships in music (not the first such—remember the Pythagoreans!). Especially via counterpoint. Emotionally, while more expressive than immediately preceding genres, his music was limited compared to what he paved the way for. Bach had to happen in order for, let's say, Rachmaninoff to happen. He gave us great formalities from which the later Romantics could derive their "clever deviations" that took music to its most soaring heights ever, before Wagner started the descent into nihilism. That's a bit over-simplified, but it'll do for now.

Great music is a bit like Objectivism—neither a straitjacket nor a free-for-all. Creativity within discipline. And the essential ingredient is ... melody!

Rhythm versus Beat

JoeM's picture

Linz: "Melody has to have rhythm, a 'beat.'"

Time to plug the Jourdain book again, MUSIC, THE BRAIN, AND ECSTASY: HOW MUSIC CAPTURES OUR IMAGINATIONS by Robert Jourdain. If you haven't read it yet, and are reading this thread, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR???? Eye

Anyways, on the above:

In the chapter on rhythm, Jourdain differentiates between rhythm as patterns of accentuated beats and the rhythm that Marnee is talking about in her original post, the organic rhythm found in speech, water, movement, etc.

Of the first, Jourdain writes "This is the predominant 'rhythm' of most popular music the world over. Its hallmark is the incessant beating of drums. Musicologists refer to this type of rhythm as METER."

Of the second: "This kind of rhythm lacks the repititive, evenly paced accentuations of measured rhythm. In music it is built up by a succession of irregular sonic shapes that combine in various ways like the parts of a painting, sometimes hanging in exquisite balance, sometimes joining forces to gyrate or plunge or swirl. For want of a standard term, call it PHRASING."

This, I believe, is what Marnee is getting at in her original post, and what Bridgman is conveying. Not what's said, but how it's said.

(A side thought: It's a common debate in musicology, especially among classical "snobs", that music with a steady meter is inferior, and it's often attacked as being primitive or repetitive "jungle music." But I find strict meter interesting in light of the industrial revolution. So much of that is influenced by the sounds of machines and factories, and it makes me thing of Dagny's thoughts on circles versus straight lines in Atlas Shrugged: spheroid patterns are common in nature, but straight lines are a hallmark of man. Likewise, nature is full of rhythm, of irregular phrasing, but steady beats are the straight lines of music. So, in the way that Rand offered a salute to "the sootiest smokestack she could find," I go inside the factory and salute the perfect timing of the machines, gears, and levers!" But more on this below, and besides, we are past the industrial age into the age of iPods, lasers, and non-moving parts!)

Objectively, I can't call a steady beat inherently evil the way Linz does (if I'm not misinterpreting him), but agree that in certain contexts, it is used in a mind-numbing manner, especially in much rap where there is little melody and little rhythmic variation, as well as a brainwashing tool in religious chants, etc, and it's use can certainly be for evil.)

"Today's pomowanking rhythm-mongers can identify a beat in their primordially ignorant way..."

Again, it's that whole phenomenon where one finds themselves tapping or moving subconsciously to a beat, even in songs that they don't like. It's less conscious appreciation, and more of an impulse, which is not art in and of itself. It's the equivalent to an animal being exited by pheramones versus the art of seduction, which works with value-judgements by utilizing those basic instincts.

On the debate between phrasing and meter: Jourdain relates some stories about composers like Beethoven and Wagner and their forays into metronome measured time. "Beethoven was an early victim of metronome mania. He had congratulated Maelzel on his invention and renounced the ambigious Italian names for tempi (is it allegro? con brio? allegro con brio?). Then he set to work affixing metronome markings to his compositions...After marking the Ninth, he misplaced the manuscipt...he later marked a second score, then rediscovered the first. Hardly any metronome markings matched between the two versions. The dejected Beethoven lamented, "No metronome markings at all! Whoever has the right feeling, needs none; and whoever lacks it, has no use for one-he will run away with the whole orchestra anyhow."

Linz, this makes me think of you; I always took your anti-headbanging rants literally, meaning the heavy-metal genre. But your reaction to the song in the soda experiment video, and the Fatboy Slim song, makes me think you're really against that steady, machinelike monotony as much as the caterwauling! And your interest in opera, and more importantly, Italian music, with its "allegro con brios," seems to resonate with Beethoven's feelings above. Anything you'd like to say about this, as an opera fan? I ask that because Opera, probably more than the other forms, relies more on phrasing than meter, due to the importance of the libretto...Less curious about your dislikes, since they're well-documented!, but more about what it is you like about the more variable type of musical rhythm. (For example, "I'll Walk With God" does not have a strict tempo, and as a result, is more able to convey the lyrics with a soaring melody line. An earthy, Earthly, tempo would have kept the song on the ground...)

One final rambling...some will say that music must be primarily rhythmic, since primitive peoples were more inclined to rhythm and less to melody, and developing rhythm to a sophisticated intricacy. Jourdain counters this conception.
"Another view has been that pulse arises from built-in motor routines like walking or sexual thrusting. There's a good deal of automaticity in such motions...suggestive of the 'primitiveness' we like to associate with musical beat....nonetheless, like heartbeat and respiration, there is no evidence that music adheres to the rhythms of particular body motions. If there were, short musicians would tend to play faster than tall musicians, since they move their legs more quickly as they walk."

More indepth, he says that "More evidence comes from developmental psychology. If rhythmic skills spring from simple biological processes, even children should be good at it. But just the opposite is true. While infants of only a few months can discern rhythmic changes, they only begin to move to rhythms at the age of two and a half, and display little accuracy until about the age of six. When pre-schoolers are played music and asked to tap its beat, they'll often produce a steady beat that has no relation to the music, gleefully unaware of the mismatch. Other children constantly change tempo, somethimes attaining the proper beat for short periods, but quite by accident. Some tap faster when the music grows louder, slower when it softens. Clearly it takes a lot of learning to produce a 'primitive' beat."

Or, as he quotes Plato, "rhythm comes from the mind and not from the body," and adds "rhythm is about grouping, about assembling the world's contents into discernible wholes."

In defense of the Rhythm Method

JoeM's picture

"I suppose then that in essence music would only have this component -- the sense of flow (melody)."

Music is SO different from the other arts because of this. Rand talks about this in her discussion of music: " The other arts create a physical object...and the psycho-epistemological process goes from the perception of the object to the conceptual grasp of its meaning, to an appraisal in terms of one's basic values, to a consequential emotion...The pattern of the process involved in music is: from perception-to emotion-to appraisal-to conceptual understanding."

"Music is experienced as if it had the power to reach man's emotion's directly."

Here's a thought: Ever find yourself tapping along to a song, maybe without even realizing it, or even better/worse: to a song that you do not like? If the above is true, then it's even truer that rhythm has the power to move man's motion's directly! And what is the purpose of emotion? To spur us on to action, or inaction. Even though art is a "concretization of man's metaphysics" meant for contemplation, the product of that contemplation is to give fuel to further action by man. So, it's not motion for motion's sake, but motion for the sake of furthering one's life. But that raises interesting questions in light of some of the Eastern philosophies of inaction!).

But Rand also believed that there is no such thing as a causeless emotion. And the sentence is kind of funny: to reach man's emotions directly, we have to locate the source of the emotion! In this case, going by the etymology, emotion and motion are interrelated, and that's why, Marnee, your post is provacative. But I was thinking about this today, and think that we have to be careful not to reify rhythm as the whole of the matter. But it's tricky in the context of music since it IS a temporal art, after all! Some people wonder what aspect of reality is represented in music to qualify it under Rand's definition of art, and the answer is usually emotion (even Rand said this, I think: "Music communicates emotinos, which one grasps, but does not actually feel...". She also suggested that music "conveys the same categories of emotions to listeners who hold widely divergent views of life...". And music, being a temporal art, utilizes rhythm as a definition, so that the theme of an instrumental piece like, to use her example, "St. Francis Walking on the Water", is depicted in motion, but it's not just the motion, it's how that motion is presented. The motion is objective, the evaluation of the composer's view of that legend, however, relies on more than motion. And even then, the listener's emotional response will vary on whether they connect with that depiction.

Metaphysical balue-judgment

Marnee's picture

"I did get chocked up in the Modanack Valley and Stephen Mallory scenes..."

Me too! But you dont feel like that through the whole book, right? We the Living is very different.

I think you get what Im saying.

"Emotions are based on value judgements that spur us on to movement (or nonmovement.)"

Yes, yes. Of course its not just re-creating reality but metaphysical value-judgments as well. This is what I was getting at and why I used those Napoleon portraits as examples. So, yes, Im saying that in a sense form follows function. Its not only creating the sense of realistic movement of the objects but how they all interact together, namely the color and spatial *relationships* should work with the artist's idea and subject -- this is the rhythm I mean. Its a flow. It will transcend the subject to evoke the artist's emotional relation to it as well as his idea for the work. I suppose then that in essence music would only have this component -- the sense of flow (melody).

Esthetic savagery!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

You can get rhythm in the jungle. The Islamo-Fascists chant rhythmically, as do rap "artists." It's all evil. Melody is the key. As, in the case of vocal music, are lyrics. As Mario Lanza said, good vocal music is a "marriage" of melody & lyrics. Melody has to have rhythm, a "beat." Today's pomowanking rhythm-mongers can identify a beat in their primordially ignorant way, but not a melody, & they balk at good lyrics as "Hollywood," simply because those lyrics are devoid of the fashionable nihilistic irony they "think" is the hallmark of sophistication & express unalloyed romantic love instead.


A mighty wind

JoeM's picture

Actually, I think we have to be careful as well to distinguish what caused the motion to begin with. Is it the emotion that determines the rhythm, or vice versa? Form follows function? And despite the etymology, we have to remember that emotion is not simply movement in itself. A leaf blowing in the wind is not the product of an emotional reaction. A pebble caught in the flow of a stream is not emotional. Emotions are based on value judgements that spur us on to movement (or nonmovement.) The rhythm is mostly a neutral, objective fact. Without the timbre, the melody, etc., it's just wind.

(BTW, I did get chocked up in the Modanack Valley and Stephen Mallory scenes, thank you. Eye

I do agree that I'm using

Marnee's picture

I do agree that I'm using the idea of rhythm imprecisely. Maybe a sense of flow or movement would be a better way to describe it. In the context of drawing, painting, sculpture, I think the notion of rhythm works well. I think the examples I linked to demonstrate what Bridgman called rhythm and its emotional effects. One could probably find a more precise way to parallel that effect in music. I'm still working on it.

Integration is the key

Peter Cresswell's picture

"It is the component of rhythm that relates emotion."

I think emotion is conveyed by all the materials of music: timbre, rhythm, intonation, dynamics, melody etc. It's melody that integrates the music.

Without melody, you just have sounds that hav more or less timbre, rhythm, intonation, dynamics etc. With melody integrating these, you have music.

Joe, as far as concepts in

Marnee's picture

Joe, as far as concepts in literature and art its the way these ideas are presented that will either work or not work to relate the emotional component. For example, We the Living has a very different feeling than The Fountainhead not just because the stories are different but because the rhythms are very different. Did you cry when reading the Fountainhead? Probably not. But I find myself fighting off tears when reading We the Living. But its not just that the events themselves are sad its that Rand writes them in such a way that she subtly moves you to those feelings; she wraps you up in that world. This comes from a mastery of the patterns of sounds of words and how they work together as well as their meanings.

George Bridgman was one of

Marnee's picture

George Bridgman was one of the great classical art and drawing instructors. He was a master of figure drawing. Google him for more information. His books on drawing are the best you can find for learning how to draw (the basis of painting and sculpture).

I'm not saying he is any authority per se but what he said made sense. I quoted him because I couldn’t think of a better way to say it. Also if you looked at the examples I linked to you would see that the rhythm is created with color as well. In drawing the rhythm is created with line and shading. In painting you add the component of color to create the masses of objects and how they interact with each other in the composition -- rhythm is then a component of composition.

Also, I was under the impression that you cant have a proper melody without rhythm so the component is always there although hugely more complex as one moves from a simple pencil drawing or a piano etude to a masterful oil painting or a symphony. It’s not exactly the same in all forms of art but I think the parallel is there.

Whatever it is, any reaction to a work of art will have the "feeling" component and a master artist will know how to best create a perfect composition to evoke that feeling and I think it is the rhythm that will make or break it.

Rhythm Method

JoeM's picture

Marnee, you claim this with such certainty! Eye Prepare to be challenged on this, to be sure, especially from the melody camp. Smiling

First question, who is this George Bridgman chap, and why is he the authority?
Second question, what about the role of, say, color, in influencing emotion in the visual arts? Where does that relate to rhythm? What about the role of concepts in literature?

Then there's the argument that music is periodic vibrations, where non-musical sounds are non-periodic. Rhythm in nature is quite a different concept than man-made rhythm (and even then there's the difference between rhythm and meter.) If the arts manipulate emotion through the component on rhythm, how does that relate to the "recreation of reality" aspect of the Objectivist definition of art?

This is not an attack, so you know; I'm investigating the idea myself of emotion being related to motion (hence my emphasis on Rand's passage on dancing.) The word itself has more to do with motion than it does the popular notion of "feelings."

"Emotion, in its most general definition, is a neural impulse that moves an organism to action. Emotion is differentiated from feeling, in that, as noted, emotion is a psycho-physiological state that moves an organism to action."

And the etymology: "emotion
1579, "a (physical) moving, stirring, agitation," from M.Fr. emotion, from O.Fr. emouvoir "stir up," from L. emovere "move out, remove, agitate," from ex- "out" + movere "to move" (see move). Sense of "strong feeling" is first recorded 1660; extended to "any feeling" 1808. Emote is a 1917 back-formation. Emotional "liable to emotion" is from 1857.

On motion and emotion in music and art

Marnee's picture

It is the component of rhythm that relates emotion. This is the same in all of the arts. I’m going to let George Bridgman make this parallel for me.

"...Rhythm was not invented. It has been the measured motion of the Universe since the beginning of time. There is rhythm in the movement of the sea and tides, stars and planets, trees and grasses, clouds and thistledown. It is a part of all animal and plant life. It is the movement of uttered words, expressed in their accented and unaccented syllables, and in the grouping and pauses of speech. Both poetry and music are the embodiment, in appropriate rhythmical sound, of beautiful thought, imagination or emotion. In drawing and painting there is rhythm in outline, color, light and shade."

So to express rhythm in drawing a figure we have in the balance of masses a subordination of the passive or inactive side to the more forceful and angular side in action, keeping constantly in mind the hidden, subtle flow of symmetry throughout." -- Bridgman’s Life Drawing

As an example in painting I would like to present three different portraits of Napoleon:

These two here and here by Jacque Louis-David and one by Antoine-Jean Gros.

See if you can notice the different effects of the rhythm of the paintings.

Motion and emotion

JoeM's picture

I'd like to add for starters that I think Rand's discussion on music should not be read without also seriously considering her passages on the performing arts, in this case, the art of the dance. I think she should have gone farther in her discussion on emotion in music to discuss the purpose of emotion, MOTION, especially since music is a temporal art. And a good time to plug the Gestalt theory of emotion in music, and my presentation of such in the archives. For those who are afraid of the "intellectualization" of music in this theory, keep in mind that while I believe it supports Rand's hypothesis, she also wrote that "the epistemological aspect of music is the fundamental, but not the exclusive, factor in determining one's musical preference." Meaning that it's not always a consciously mathematical process involved in listening, but the means to an end? "This is an issue I'd like to hear more about. She continued "The issue is not merely that one is able to perceive successfully, i.e., to integrate a series of sounds into a musical entity, but also: what sort of entity does one perceive?"


I agree that 'modern music' is overloaded in this context. In this chapter Rand addresses modern music directly only once:

"A brief word about so-called modern music: no further research or scientific discoveries are required to know with full, objective certainty that it is not music. The proof lies in the fact that music is the product of periodic vibrations -- and, therefore, the introduction of nonperiodic vibrations (such as the sounds of street traffic or of machine gears or of coughs and sneezes), i.e., of noise, into an allegedly musical composition eliminates it automatically from the realm of art and of consideration."

While she talks about the music passed as high art in her time, I was taking it a step further. Include today's modern music, Rap / Hip Hop and you begin to see the true attack on man's mind. Replacing the random bits of non-musical sounds are jumbled,disintegrated musical sounds and methodical base hits. This noise presented as music is exactly the kind of thing Rand says has a "paralyzing, narcotic effect on man's mind" when refering to primitive music. Music is, for the most part, a reflection of the sense-of-life and therefore the integrated (or disintegrated) aspects of the consumers of that kind of music.

Mr. Green

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Good on you for kicking this discussion back into life. I'll comment at greater length later, including your Bach comment, but I agree with your statement that Wayne takes issue with. Smiling


Here We Go Again...

Wayne Simmons's picture

Mr. Green, sorry to say, but, your argument is a rationalistic generalization. You need to give us example(Drunk of the sense of life in which those who like modern music are dependent. And what do you classify as modern music? As it stands, this is so broad it's meaningless.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.